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Why Users Uninstall Apps

4 Mar 2014CPOL7 min read 21.6K   5   3
Getting an app developed is just the first step in a long journey. One of the more daunting problems facing developers is user engagement; basically, how to get users to install apps and keep them installed

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Getting an app developed is just the first step in a long journey. One of the more daunting problems facing developers is user engagement; basically, how to get users to install apps and keep them installed. It’s difficult to keep users satisfied beyond that initial app install, and it can be even more difficult to get meaningful exposure in the first place against larger companies that offer a lot of apps that tend to get space on those Top Ten lists.

Different types of uninstalls

A simple uninstall is not necessarily a bad thing, neither does it necessarily indicate that there’s a problem. There’s a catch-22 situation here; is it better to have an app that is completely ignored by the majority of users, or is it better to have an app that is apparently so non-user-friendly that it’s uninstalled immediately?

Apps that don’t offer anything helpful or unique tend to be the ones that are uninstalled the most frequently. People cycle through apps incredibly quickly to find the one that best fits their needs. Engagement and retention are two very different things, as we can see from this measurement from Flurry Analytics, who used a sample of apps used more than 1.7 billion times each week:

Image 1

One of the easiest ways to increase app loyalty is to look at the data. Developers can take advantage of client-side interaction analytics to figure out what is driving their customer base behavior, and improve their apps in specific ways that speak directly to what their users are looking for. Developers who keep an ear to the ground as far as what their customers are really looking for are going to reap the benefits. There are also several tools out there (both free and paid) that monitor what users are searching for as far when looking for apps at various app stores and via the Web.

Factors that influence app uninstalls

How to reduce the uninstall rate is a question that most developers are actively seeking the answer to. A lot of apps have a naturally limited lifecycle; i.e., apps that are centered around a movie release or an app that tracks a pregnancy, or an app that celebrates a holiday. In addition, apps with limited functionality, for example, "lite" games that only go so far, are uninstalled once the user has mastered all the levels. That isn’t always a bad thing. If the app is engaging enough, developers can get the user to download the next app in their stable of apps, creating a continuous engagement cycle.

There’s really not a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of "why are users uninstalling my app?" But there do seem to be a few common factors that can contribute to this happening:

Lengthy forms: Asking a user who has just installed an app to fill out a lengthy, convoluted form contributes to a poor user experience, especially on a mobile device.

Asking for ratings: Apps that are intrusively pushing for good ratings tend to be uninstalled; these need to be timed quite precisely in order to avoid user burnout.

Collecting unnecessary data: If an app is collecting personal data without a clear demonstrable need – or without consent – the app is more likely to be uninstalled. There’s no need to ask for sensitive data that the app does not need to function properly:

"If apps could announce their information use practices as you enter a relationship with them and when you enter a relationship with me, then at least you could be better informed. This awareness enables you to decide whether you really do want to use the app. Imagine:

  • As you enter a contact into your smartphone, you would be informed as to how all the apps on your smartphone would use that information.
  • When you add a new app to your Facebook profile, it showed you how the app was going to use your social graph data – an impact assessment.

What this gets back to is a desire for control. An app that tries to be as upstanding as you are would provide better visibility and choice with respect to the use of information about your relationships. Apps that are bad actors will not provide such choice and likely go to great lengths to hide their actual use of the information." -, "I Like You but I Hate Your Apps"

User friendliness: If the app takes more than a few seconds to learn how to use, the majority of users are going to uninstall it.

Is it free? Users are more likely to uninstall an app if they didn’t pay for it, especially if it doesn’t have a clear perceived use. Even if the app only cost .99, users are less likely to uninstall simply because that’s .99 that they will be basically throwing away. There’s a fine balance to this, since free apps can bring in money from in-app purchases.

Buggy: If an app is full of glitches, eats up too much memory, or crashes all the time, it tends to be uninstalled. Users are rarely forgiving of these kinds of issues. Being sure to repeatedly test an app on multiple devices and versions of the same operating system can greatly limit the number of issues users encounter. Users are becoming increasingly more sophisticated as far as what they are looking for in their apps:

"A study, carried out online by uSamp, found that freezing (76%), crashing (71%) and slow responsiveness (59%) were the primary bugbears when it came to app problems, with heavy battery usage (55%) and too many ads (53%) also mentioned. Users stressed that performance mattered the most on banking apps (74%) and maps (63%), with the latter no doubt much to the chagrin of Apple, which has had some difficulty with its own maps software on iOS 6. For almost every respondent (96%) said that they would write a bad review on an under-par app, while 44% said that they would delete the app immediately. Another 38% said that they would delete the app if it froze for more than 30 seconds with 32% and 21% respectively indicating that they would moan about the app to their friends or colleagues in person or over Facebook and Twitter. A considerable 18% would delete an app immediately if it froze for just five seconds, but 27% said that they would persist with the app if they paid for it. Those experiencing bad apps urged developers to fix the problem (89%) first and foremost, followed by offering easy refunds (65%) and a customer service number (49%)." - Business Insider, "Customers Hate Freezing Apps"

Unnecessary notifications: Annoying users is defeating the purpose of an app. Sending unnecessary push notifications that merely create an improper noise to signal ratio are annoying. They need to be time effectively so that they are not intrusive or too pushy.

A good user experience is at the core of any good app, and user-friendly apps are the most successful. Judging from the sheer amount of downloads from various app stores (numbering in the billions just from Apple alone); people are obviously very willing to try new apps. However, it behooves developers to take a long-view picture beyond just that initial download and figure out how they can focus on retaining those customers, making them into die-hard fans who will continue to use the app for the long haul. Studying the analytics of app downloads (usually provided within your app store dashboard) will help developers analyze the demographic profiles of the people who are interested in their apps, making for a more targeted marketing campaign and also aiding in future updates of the apps themselves.

Other related articles and resources

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Comments and Discussions

QuestionPerformance is important too Pin
Rajesh R Subramanian20-Mar-14 23:00
professionalRajesh R Subramanian20-Mar-14 23:00 
QuestionOther reasons Pin
staffan_v6-Mar-14 3:00
professionalstaffan_v6-Mar-14 3:00 
AnswerRe: Other reasons Pin
Jeffrey Fox7-Mar-14 15:48
Jeffrey Fox7-Mar-14 15:48 

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